29 May 2009

Arresting people for profit?

I am a big fan of Amy Alkon and do not recall a time that I disagreed with her.  Granted, I have not been reading her that long, but now I do read her daily.

Have to disagree with her position on this:
May 29, 2009 

Make Crime Pay Us Back

By doing something I've always thought we should do -- charging criminals for their jail stay. Tracy Loew writes in USA Today:

Get arrested in Springfield, Ore., this fall, and you might spend the night in jail -- then get a bill for your stay.

The city plans to charge convicted criminals up to $60 a night, depending on their ability to pay, when a new 100-bed lockup opens in October, Springfield Police Chief Jerry Smith says. Thus, the city could recoup most of its cost of about $70 a day.

"These people are the ones who cause the cost to operate a jail, so they ought to be the ones to pay it, not private citizens," Smith says.

The economic recession is spurring several local governments to turn to pay-to-stay programs, says Sara Totonchi, public policy director for the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, which fights legislation that imposes such fees on inmates.

"In these difficult economic times, policymakers are looking for different options to save money," Totonchi says.

Oh, boohoo. You do the crime -- don't expect me to pay for your time. And that has nothing to do with the way our elected and appointed idiots mismanage our tax dollars and our prisons.

And while we're at it, I think criminals should have to stay in jail until they earn money to pay restitution to their victims.

I disagree about as strongly as possible.  All this does is set-up a system of perpetual employment for the legal and law enforcement system.  We already have enough problems with cops taking property under questionable circumstances.  We have for decades.  Now we are going to begin a billing system for housing convicted criminals?

How about this:  make jail as expensive and safe as possible and get rid of a bunch of stupid laws that make it all too easy for government actors to incarcerate such a large percentage of our population.  Perhaps if jail was more expensive to society our representatives would not be so happy to make so many perfectly harmless things illegal.

In the future, at least the one I was thinking in my book, pretty much the last things people will be getting jailed for (in the USA) are non-violent crimes.  Sadly, every time I think we are about to go in that direction we are deflected.

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